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September 3, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Undie 500

ENSOC rule 1: “All cars MUST be road legal (WOF + Rego) ON THE DAY. You won’t be allowed in if not.”

For the last two years, the Undie 500, where thousands of stumbling, side-walk urinating Canterbury engineers descend upon Dunedin in cheap cars fitted with nifty costumes, has descended into rioting. Despite the best efforts of ENSOC (Engineering Society of Canterbury) organisers, police, and Otago Uni, this year’s scenes of rioting eclipsed those which have gone before. Now, ENSOC’s website lists a set of charming little rules supposed to temper this sort of behaviour. But smashing things is fun. Being a fucking moron and attacking firemen is a dumb and spiteful activity – which is the very reason it seems such a good idea after a couple dozen Tuis. And so, after a glorious 19-year history, the Undie 500 is no more. Dunedin’s mayor Peter Chin, along with the Presidents of both Canterbury and Otago’s students’ associations, have declared the event extinct.

ENSOC rule 2: “There will be breath testing on the way. Don’t drink drive!”

The Undie 500 drivers were actually pretty good about not drinking. Police breath-tested 285 Undie drivers near Tinwald, and not a single one returned a positive alcohol test. But once everyone arrives in Dunedin, the whole drink-driving thing becomes irrelevant. In an extensive scene of the carnage that went down in the Dunedin student ghetto on Saturday August 25, the TV3 news cameras captured a posse of young men dancing around a car set alight and throwing bottles at both firemen and police, and then…they start doing the haka. Admittedly they don’t do it very well (cos they were pissed), but still. Kiwis seem to have an innate habit of pulling out “ka mate” whenever they need to prove something to outsiders. I have seen them do it to Australians overseas. But like, what, are you going to scalp the policemen and gobble down their brains to devour their mana? No? Later in TV3’s footage, one of the students accosts the cameraman and tells him to “fuck off out of my neighbourhood.” Funny thing about this is that these students are mostly rich Northerners, going through their four-year southern tour of duty, fuelled by the myriad alcoholic beverages funded by daddy’s credit card. So it isn’t even really their neighbourhood. Fools.

ENSOC rule 3: “In previous years we have been fined for littering. Littering is illegal! If ENSOC gets fined, it comes out of YOUR fun and pockets.”

However much I may mock the antics of the hooligans who have killed the Undie 500, there is, underneath all this, something mystical about their festivities. Jumping through sacred bonfires is well up there on the list of greatest pagan rights-of-passage.

In March of this year, couch burning came to Wellington: police cited two incidents which occurred in a queue for Red Hot Chilli Peppers tickets, and suggested that the couches involved were set alight by southern students. But it is unlikely to ever become so popular here as it is in Dunedin, where sitting on a burning sofa in the evening is made enjoyable by the sub-zero temperatures swirling about. The practice of burning sofas began, according to local legend, at a cricket match. Which says a lot about cricket.

Anyway, during the latest Undie 500 – when 73 vehicles and numerous sofa and rubbish fires were set by revellers – there was a concern that these fires might spread, which brought in the firemen, and the subsequent attacks upon said firemen, which attracted police officers and led to 69 arrests.

Take another look at that TV3 footage (you can still catch it on the web). The only tactic Dunedin’s police know for dealing with rioters is to form a line and push them all down the street, which they did at around 7pm.

However, once this had been achieved, the police were stuck down one end of the street, while folk started to light fires back down the other end again. And so the whole process has to begin again, and again… which leads us to the problem. Not only do we have a bunch of kids who have driven hundreds of kilometres in order to smash and burn shit, we also have police officers who simply have no fucking clue about how to handle the situation, and who resort to forcing everyone out of their flats to “clear the area”. No, they don’t deserve to be called pigs, nor do they deserve to be attacked with flying bottles. But neither are they heroes. What a mess. ENSOC rule 4: “All airborne objects INCLUDING EGGS are banned. The police may enforce this.”

However the most dire consequence of the Undie 500 was not the setting alight of cheap cars, nor the attacks upon emergency services, but the terrible abuse of eggs. According to the Ashburton Guardian, Undie participants ran riot through the streets of their sleepy town, pelting innocent passers-by with eggs. What is most worrying of all is that, as Sergeant Grant Russell of the Ashburton police pointed out, these eggs may have been locally obtained. After watching the engineers taking a number of trays to the checkouts, Russell said it might be a good idea in the future to limit egg sales to half a dozen: “The retailers have got to have a good hard look at it… If you want to sell the eggs, expect to get some back. You know what they’re going to do with them.”

Atrocious, eh.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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